Saturday, December 16, 2017

Year B, Advent 3, Luke 1.36-55, Mother of God

From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.
You’ve probably not heard many sermons in the Lutheran Church on Mary, the mother of our Lord.
For many of us, to be Lutheran is to reject much of what is distinctively Roman Catholic, and with that, reject any notion of the blessedness of the virgin Mary.
In this we parted ways, not only with Roman Catholicism, but with Luther himself.
Hear a few things Luther said:
God did not derive his divinity from Mary; but it does not follow that it is therefore wrong to say that God was born of Mary, that God is Mary's Son, and that Mary is God's mother...She is the true mother of God and bearer of God...Mary suckled God, rocked God to sleep, prepared broth and soup for God, etc. For God and man are one person, one Christ, one Son, one Jesus. not two Christs. . .just as your son is not two sons...even though he has two natures, body and soul, the body from you, the soul from God alone. (On the Councils and the Church, 1539).

[She is the] highest woman and the noblest gem in Christianity after Christ. ..She is nobility, wisdom, and holiness personified. We can never honor her enough. Still honor and praise must be given to her in such a way as to injure neither Christ nor the Scriptures. (Sermon, Christmas, 1531).
No woman is like you. You are more than Eve or Sarah, blessed above all nobility, wisdom, and sanctity. (Sermon, Feast of the Visitation. 1537).
One should honor Mary as she herself wished and as she expressed it in the Magnificat. She praised God for his deeds. How then can we praise her? The true honor of Mary is the honor of God, the praise of God's grace.. .Mary is nothing for the sake of herself, but for the sake of Christ...Mary does not wish that we come to her, but through her to God. (Explanation of the Magnificat, 1521).
It is the consolation and the superabundant goodness of God, that man is able to exult in such a treasure. Mary is his true Mother, Christ is his brother. God is his father. (Sermon. Christmas, 1522) 
Mary is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of all of us even though it was Christ alone who reposed on her knees...If he is ours, we ought to be in his situation; there where he is, we ought also to be and all that he has ought to be ours, and his mother is also our mother. (Sermon, Christmas, 1529).
(The quotes are assembled from Luther’s works by Dave Armstrong, and published by
Some might say that Luther’s devotion to the Virgin Mary is one aspect of his faith that remained very Catholic, even following the Reformation.
Perhaps even view this as a weakness in his personal theology.
And yet, we should also beware that our resistance to calling her blessed has more to do with our anti-Roman Catholic tendencies, than it does with any scriptural or theological position.
Over and against any and all of our objections to any veneration of Mary is one simple fact:
That through this young maiden, God became human, entering into our world through her womb, and receiving from her his earthly nature. 
Theotokos is what she is referred to in Eastern Orthodoxy, literally, “God bearer”.

Mary was a  young maiden, probably only 12 or 13 years old, old enough to be betrothed according to Jewish custom, but not yet married in the full sense of that term, which would normally happen after she matured, went through puberty, and became a woman.
An angel visited her.
She heard the words that she would bear a child who would be called “Son of God” that is, the Messiah.
And she wondered, how could this be.
In the end, in a perfectly faithful response, she said: “let it be with me according to your word."
When she visited Elizabeth, her relative that was expecting her child in her old age, Mary broke into song:
"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.”
The favor of God shown to her, and to us, in our lowliness.
Mary would cradle the Christ Child in her arms, as shepherds and wise men visited.
She would hear of the angel’s song:
"Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!"
And she would hear Simeon’s Song, when they brought Jesus to be circumsized:
29 "Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel."
No sooner than all this had taken place, Mary would grasp Jesus in her arms and flee with Joseph into Egypt, a refugee seeking safety for the child in a foreign land, made necessary by Herod’s desire to kill the babe.
As Jesus grew in years, they would visit Jerusalem.
Horrified, they realized as they returned home that Jesus was nowhere to be found. 
Except in his Father’s house, where he was found conversing with the teachers.
"Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?"
It was Mary who called on Jesus to perform his first miracle, at the wedding at Cana.
And it was Mary who sought out Jesus during his ministry, concerned about his health and wellbeing.
And then it was Mary who stood at the foot of the cross, filled with grief, as she watched her son suffer and die.
Simeon had said:
 "This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too."
Had those words prepared her for the agony of watching Jesus suffer and die?

In all this, Mary reflected the Father’s love, in that she too offered her Son up for the salvation of the world.
And for this, all generations will called her blessed.
Rather than despising the Virgin Mary, we should rather seek to model our faith after hers.
"Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."

Let it be.
Let it be that God might look upon us in our lowliness with his grace and favor.
Let it be that through us the Christ might become flesh and dwell among us, full of grace and truth.
Let it be that we might cling tight to the Christ to protect him from the world,
And let it be that we might let him go into the world.
Let it be that we might take our stand at the foot of the cross.
And let it be that we might bear his love to all the world.

I’ve often thought that one of the reasons Roman Catholics are so devoted to Mary, is that sometimes only a mother will do.
You see, there is a part of us that longs to return to the bosom from which we were first embraced, to feel again the love that gave us life, and to know that we are not, nor ever shall be, orphaned.
If Christ is truly our brother, then Mary is our Mother.
As Luther said:
Mary is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of all of us even though it was Christ alone who reposed on her knees...If he is ours, we ought to be in his situation; there where he is, we ought also to be and all that he has ought to be ours, and his mother is also our mother. (Sermon, Christmas, 1529).
The love that Mary had for Jesus, is also a love she has for us.
But Mary’s love is always experienced as a reflection of the Father’s love and in the context of her love for the Christ Child.
To come to Mary, is to come to the one who kneels at the side of the manger.
To come to Mary, is to come to the one who points us to the one who lies in the manger.
To come to Mary, mother of God, is to come to Jesus, apart from which she is not.
Mary will not save you.
She merely points us to the one, who will.
She points us to the one, whose will is that we might be saved.

It is to stand with Mary,
At the foot of the cross,
And simply say:  “Let it be with me according to your Word.”


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